STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 1, GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY 2
Stalybridge Celtic’s slender hopes of making the BetVictor Northern Premier League, premier division play-offs, receded further following their home defeat by Gainsborough Trinity.
It has been a miserable start to 2020 for Celtic who have picked up only three points from a possible 21 which has all but ended their hopes of a top-five finish.
Celtic, whose last league win was on Boxing Day, had also earlier in the day confirmed the sale of 15-goal top scorer Darius Osei to South Shields for an undisclosed fee, a decision that also impacted their push for promotion.
Manager Simon Haworth said: “While I can understand financially why it was done, it is a huge blow from a personal and football point of view to lose the best striker in the league.
“We would probably have won the game had Darius played because he would cause problems and create chances.”
Celtic, who were watched by Preston manager Alex Neill who was looking at his loanees Adam O’Reilly and Ethan Walker who are at Bower Fold.
And he could not have failed to be impressed with the goal that gave Celtic a 32nd minute lead as it was made in Preston.
Walker’s free kick from 30 yards was fumbled by goalkeeper George Willis and O’Reilly slotted home the rebound.
Celtic were unlucky not to finish the opening period with a greater lead as Paddy Lacey’s drive hit the underside of the bar and Craig Hobson was brilliantly denied by Willis.
Chris Smalley had another great chance to double Celtic’s advantage soon after the restart, Willis saving well, before it suddenly unravelled as Trinity scored twice in three minutes.
Trinity’s 50th minute equaliser was a towering header from burly striker Gregg Smith following a cross from the left.
And it went from bad to worse when they quickly conceded a second when Nathan Walker’s ball in from the right was put into his own net by Stephen O’Halloran, though Trinity’s Jordon Odoby-Smith was credited with thee goal.
Trinity managed the second half well and Celtic only had one clear chance to equalise when left-back Scott Metcalfe forced a decent save from Willis.
Indeed, they might have triumphed by a wider margin has Celtic goalkeeper Alex Fojticek not kept out efforts from Walker and Michael Williams.
It was a frustrating night for Celtic manager Simon Haworth who said: “I thought we are okay in the first half and could easily have been three up.
“We defended poorly for their goals and that has been our Achilles heel.”